With the penultimate round of the NRL season bringing six matches to Sydney this coming weekend, we assess each Sydney based club’s position on the ladder and what is at stake for them this week. You can find links to tickets for all six matches at the bottom of this post, and remember to check here later in the week for full previews of all matches across the weekend.
Officially the Roosters cannot secure the Minor Premiership this weekend, but a win over the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday will secure a top two finish – and a South Sydney loss against Wests Tigers will surely be enough for the tri-colours to finish top. Should this outcome eventuate, the Rabbitohs would have to beat the Roosters by 50-60 points in the final round next week to snatch the crown. Any other combination of results leaves next Friday night at ANZ Stadium as a straight shootout between the Roosters and Souths for the Minor Premiership.
Best Case Scenario: Minor Premiers
Worst Case Scenario: 3rd place
South Sydney Rabbitohs
After leading the competition for so long in 2013 the post Origin period looked like robbing Souths of a first Minor Premiership for over 20 years. The return of big players such as Greg Inglis and John Sutton have put them back on track, and victories in their final two games will see the bunnies finish top. Victory over Wests Tigers on Friday night secures a top two finish and a home final in week one (likely to be against the Storm).
Best case scenario: Minor Premiers
Worst case scenario: 3rd place
Manly Sea Eagles
If Manly come up short in their quest for glory it is quite straight forward to pinpoint where they lost ground in 2013. They have yet to beat any of their fellow title contenders, although they do have a chance to rectify that particular statistic on Saturday night against the Storm. Victory secures a top four finish and a second bite at the cherry should they lose in week one of the finals series. A defeat leaves them open to attack from below by the Sharks.
Best case scenario: 3rd place
Worst case scenario: 5th place
Perhaps the greatest threat to Cronulla’s hopes of glory in 2013 remains what has been lurking in the background since the start of the season – the ASADA investigation. With the heavy penalties dished out by the AFL to Essendon this week, Sharks fans can be forgiven for feeling nervous. On the pitch things are looking stronger than ever. Monday night’s dominant performance against the Roosters showed again that the Sharks have one of the strongest playing rosters in the NRL – when everyone is fit. One win from their two remaining games confirms fifth spot on the ladder, but a place in the top four is dependent on two defeats for Manly.
Best case scenario: 4th place
Worst case scenario: 6th place
The 2013 season has never quite hit the heights of last year’s Minor Premiership winning campaign for the Bulldogs, although a couple of solid winning streaks have hinted that their best is not too far away. Defeat last weekend against South Sydney ended any chance of a top four finish for the Bulldogs, but one win from their final two games will secure a home final in week one.
Best case scenario: 5th place
Worst case scenario: 12th place
Without doubt the surprise package of 2013, the Panthers would not have been on many peoples list of finals contenders at the start of the season. They currently sit in 10th spot, bang in the middle of a group of teams covered by just two points. With so many different outcomes possible the Panthers just need to concentrate on what they can control – two wins from two will surely see them sneak into the top eight. However it is a big ask to get those wins in away games against the Bulldogs and Manly.
Best case scenario: 6th place
Worst case scenario: 13th place
Victory over the Dragons last weekend ended any lingering danger of the wooden spoon heading to Concord. With the pressure now off the Tigers will look to put in a couple of good performances and send off departing stars such as Benji Marshall in style.
Best case scenario: 14th place
Worst case scenario: 15th place
St George Illawarra Dragons
Just five weeks ago the Dragons were celebrating an upset win over Souths that suggested a late run to the finals could be on the cards. That was as good as things got and five straight defeats have left the Red V in second last on the ladder. Their only saving grace has been the equally woeful form of Parramatta saving them from the wooden spoon. The bottom two sides face off at Parramatta Stadium on Monday night – a win for the Dragons will condemn the Eels to last place.
Best case scenario: 14th place
Worst case scenario: 16th place (unlikely due to relative for/against)
With incoming coach Ricky Stuart lifting spirits among players and fans alike, the Eels came into 2013 as many people’s dark horses for finals football. The reality could not have been any more different, with record losing streaks and regular thrashings leaving the Eels almost certain to collect a second successive wooden spoon. Even the coaching of Stuart has begun to be called into question, although he has bought himself time with his radical overhaul of the playing roster already in motion. There can be no excuse in 2014.
Best case scenario: 15th place (unlikely due to relative for/against)
Worst case scenario: 16th place (wooden spoon)
Friday 30th August, Allianz Stadium Moore Park 19:35
Wests Tigers v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Saturday 31st August, ANZ Stadium Homebush 17:30
Canterbury Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers
Saturday 31st August, Brookvale Oval 19:30
Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm
Sunday 1st September, Remondis Stadium Cronulla 14:00
Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday 1st September, Allianz Stadium Moore Park 15:00
Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
Monday 2nd September, Parramatta Stadium 19:00
Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons